Networking or Réseautage and the Blogosphere

Mitch Joel has some useful commentary on Networking in his latest blog entry. As he says, the benefits of getting involved with others working in your field can be extremely valuable. Here in Montreal, Francophones can turn to Lise Cardinal, an expert in R?seautage or Networking, for advice on how to do effective networking. She is getting more and more known both here and in Europe. Her website is a useful portal in French for a whole host of advice and resources on Networking. As far as I know, there is no English equivalent, although I would love to be proved wrong on that.

I then got to pondering on how well you can network on the Internet versus physically meeting people. Physically meeting people is very costly and, if it involves major travel, brings all the additional irritations caused by concerns on security. The Internet is the best possible medium for promoting communication between individuals, and can almost be the equivalent of being together with the latest technology. So isn’t that the vehicle through which to network.

In fact it’s not all that easy. There are infrastructures available. Such mechanisms as Usenets and now Yahoo! or Google Groups are one way of doing it. This has now got more sophisticated with processes such as Google Orkut. It would seem to have exactly the aims we would look for:

Orkut is an online community that connects people through a network of trusted friends. We are committed to providing an online meeting place where people can socialize, make new acquaintances and find others who share their interests.

However it doesn’t seem to have taken off as a preferred route for networking.

Blogging is growing rapidly and exponentially so isn’t that perhaps where we could see some networking naturally occurring. In fact the blogging process is not at all suitable for networking, although networks may develop among people who blog. Blogging is more akin to those speakers on Speakers’ Corner in Hyde Park, London. Each stands on his or her small stand and spouts away into the air. Some speakers manage to attract a crowd and some may get feedback (comments) from their listeners. However each speaker is always a little above their audience.

Networking on the other hand is peer-to-peer communication. It requires a suitable venue for peers to meet and interact. The right Forum, and there are thousands of them on the Internet, may well be such a venue. The Cre8asite Forums is a good example of how such Forums can become the meeting ground for peers to meet. Its core reason for existing is indicated by its slogan “Building Better Websites”. However when the peers get together, discussion can wander over other related and unrelated topics that attract their interest. Cre8asite is a good illustration of how networking can work on the Internet.

Why would folk congregate in such a cyber-spot and “network”. A current Cre8asite discussion may give part of the answer. Usability is the whole topic of how to design websites so that they “work” for their users. Website navigation is only one small part of this topic. The whole topic is one that seems to attract the largest number of divergent cliques, who insist that their take on the whole subject is the best. The discussion was on whether some other word than Usability could better describe the field. One participant suggested the word “Habitability”. In layman’s terms, that could best be interpreted perhaps as that a website should “make you feel at home”.

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